Source: CBC (Extract)
Posted: July 26, 2023

In 2011, the stray cat population in Windsor-Essex, Ont., was at a ‘crisis point’.

Melanie Coulter’s efforts to care for animals are getting a little easier.

As the executive director of the Windsor/Essex County Humane Society, she used to grapple with an overflow of stray cats, so much that it was at a “crisis point.” But the number of stray cats the society took in declined by more than 50 per cent between 2011 and 2022.

“The population decreasing is a really good thing. It is for us because we’re able to give more cats more space,” Coulter said. “We’re able to find them homes more quickly.”

As for why, Coulter credits the society implementing a spay and neuter program at its clinics. The program was implemented after the society hit a breaking point, she said.

“When the numbers were as high as they were at a crisis level in 2011, it really made it a challenge to find homes and placement for everybody,” she said.

“At the same time our clinic opened, the municipalities expanded that effort by increasing access even more by providing spay-neuter vouchers to help people spay or neuter community cats or their own cats.”

Aside from helping cats find a better home, the push for spaying and neutering has impacted humans too, she said. The facts cats roaming neighbourhoods is stress out residents.

“It can be frustrating for neighbours if there’s community cats,” she said. “Nobody wants to see cats living on the streets if they could be living inside homes.”

The lowered number of strays coming into the humane society also bodes well for the environment.

Derek Coronado, co-ordinator of Citizens Environmental Alliance, said strays and other outdoor cats put pressure on ecosystems by their habits.

“In terms of impacts on bird species, those cats kill about upwards of over 200 million birds per year in Canada,” Coronado said.

Such a statistic was echoed by Birds Canada, a nationwide conservation group sharing that roughly 100 to 350 million birds were killed by cats yearly.

Stray cats can also pose threats to flora and fauna as well.

“In their efforts to get at what they’re after, going through or trampling on various plant species or marking and identifying those areas that they like to hunt in may affect plant species,” Coronado said.

Coulter said the presence of fewer strays shows the importance of handling these cats the right way.

“The biggest message that we’ve taken from this is that spay and neuter works, and that increasing access to spay and neuter in a community does make a difference.”